Fresno cold case confession: sexual advances motive for murder

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Ten years after a Fresno murder case went cold, it's heating up again. (KFSN)

Ten years after a Fresno murder case went cold, it's heating up again.

It was the hottest month of the summer of 2005 and a horrible stench wafted through the yard at a Central Fresno apartment complex. The police officer who answered a resident's call for help discovered the source of the smell in apartment #2.

"I could see the body and I could see that it did not look natural," said Fresno police officer Zebulon Price. "It did not look that this individual died naturally, rolled up in this futon."

Andrew Alvarez had been dead for days and his body was decomposing. But it still carried some evidence of what had happened to the 40-year-old.

"There were several stab wounds to the body and I grouped them because there were so many of them," said Dr. Venu Gopal, a forensic pathologist with the Fresno County coroner's office.

Coroners determined Alvarez died after suffering about 18 stab wounds, several to the back. Police interviewed a few potential suspects, including Joseph Preston Shepherd, but they made no arrests; not for almost a decade. Scientists finally found a DNA match leading them right back to Shepherd, who by then was already serving prison time for another crime. This time around, Shepherd gave himself up.

"I advised him of his rights and I basically said OK. I'm here. What's up?'" said Fresno police detective Bart Ledbetter. "And he said 'I committed the murder.'"

Ledbetter says Shepherd described how he killed Alvarez, how he covered his tracks, and even what triggered the attack.

"Mr. Alvarez came downstairs naked, no clothes on," Ledbetter says Shepherd told him. "Mr. Alvarez approached him and was trying to hit on him, trying to kiss him."

Shepherd's defense attorney points out there's a missing report from the original 2005 investigation. And he questioned why the DNA match didn't show up sooner, but a judge decided Tuesday there is enough evidence for Shepherd to stand trial for murder.

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